Background: Farmworkers in the US constitute a medically underserved population at substantial risk for numerous environmental and occupational health problems. Most US farmworkers are Latino. Skin disease is one health problem to which farmworkers are particularly vulnerable. Interventions to reduce skin disease must be adapted to farmworkers' understanding of such disease, including their beliefs or knowledge of risk factors for skin disease.
Methods: Structured by the Explanatory Models of Illness framework, this analysis uses a qualitative design based on in-depth interviews with 30 Latino farmworkers (6 females, 24 males) to determine beliefs and perceptions of the causes of common occupational skin diseases in this population. Computer assisted, systematic procedures are used to analyze the verbatim transcripts of these interviews.
Results: Skin disease is a major concern among farmworkers because it affects work, social interaction, and other aspects of their lives. Farmworker beliefs and perceptions of skin disease causation can be integrated into a general model in which perceived risk factors include sun and heat, chemicals, plants, insects, moisture, hygiene, and contagion. Each of these factors is moderated by the individual's personal susceptibility to that cause. The interaction or combination of two or more factors is thought to amplify their individual effects.
Conclusions: The farmworker model of skin disease causation suggests important content for health education to reduce skin disease among farmworkers.